Analytical Chemistry

Autonomous microfluidic capillary system

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The transport of minute amounts of liquids using microfluidic systems has opened avenues for higher throughput and parallelization of miniaturized bio/chemical processes combined with a great economy of reagents. In this report, we present a microfluidic capillary system (CS) that autonomously transports aliquots of different liquids in sequence: liquids pipetted into the service port of the CS flow unidirectionally through the various sections of the CS, which comprises a 15-pL reaction chamber, into the capillary pump. A CS can thus be operated by simply delivering the different samples to its service port. The liquid transport concept presented here is advantageous because the pumping and valving functions are integrated into the device by means of capillary phenomena, and it therefore does not require any external power supply or control device. Thus, arrays of CSs can easily be formed by cloning a functional CS. Alternatively, the flow of liquids in CSs can also be interactively tuned if desired by (i) forcing the evaporating of liquid out of the capillary pumps and (ii) by contacting a secondary, removable capillary pump to the embedded ones. We illustrate the possibilities of CSs by conducting a surface immunoassay for a cardiac marker, within 25 min, on an area of 100 × 100 μm2, using 16 sequential filling steps.